Paul Ryan and Donald Trump had a tough week. This isn’t to mean anyone’s expected to show sympathy; in fact, gloating is encouraged. Once we’re done gloating, however, there’s going to be more waste coming down the sewage line that is Ryan’s desperate attempts at reaffirming himself as the GOP’s “policy wonk” wunderkind. His total failure to build any consensus around a garbage heap of a healthcare plan shows the deep rift between running a campaign on bumper sticker slogans and actually legislating. While Paul Ryan has spent every moment since he spawned on a damp basement floor trying to benefit the wealthy, there’s less people buying into that concept. This isn’t just coming from Democrats; there are issues between Ryan and more moderate Republican legislators that have voters to answer to when the time comes for reelection. The health care bill died because people made their voices heard, letting their representatives know that they disagreed with the health care plan, and there’s nothing more important to a sitting legislator than not carpet-bombing their chances at reelection. Ryan is going to have a similarly hard time selling Trump’s tax reforms.
Tax reform is something that everyone agrees with but few agree on. The left sees it as a chance to change tax structures to benefit workers rather than investors, to leave in place things like the estate tax, and to create tax benefits for things like child care. The right sees it as an opportunity to decrease taxes on the wealthy and corporations, leaving necessary dollars for things like infrastructure investment behind in a desperate attempt to get the support of working class voters that believe they’re temporarily embarrassed millionaires. Tax reform is something that would have come up regardless of who sits in the White House, but good tax reform is complicated. If there’s anything we learned from the health care debacle, it’s that constructing and selling complicated reform is not Trump or Ryan’s strong suit.
Trump’s plan involves promises that 73 million households won’t have to pay income taxes, that businesses will pay no more than 15%, and that the Alternative Minimum Tax will be eliminated. The top rate for individuals would be 25%, compared to a top rate of 39.6% currently. This is a fairly typical iteration of trickle-down economic policy, a horse-shit theory that’s been proven not to work. This plan gives massive tax cuts to the wealthy and tosses some scraps to the middle and working classes. While people want to talk about infrastructure investment, investment in education, and the need for good jobs, we’re being presented with tax reform that vacuums money out of our government programs and lines the pockets of the rich. If reforming a system in a way that only benefits the wealthy while leaving ordinary Americans behind sounds familiar, that’s because it is; this is what the American Health Care Act did, and why it ultimately failed.
It’s easy to stand in front of voters and insist that you’re going to lower taxes for them, but the reality of the situation once elected is distinctly different. You can’t lower taxes on the wealthy and simultaneously make investments in your country, and you can’t expect legislators to vote yes on a tax bill that will anger their constituents at home. For better or worse, the legislature is primarily concerned with being reelected, and they’re beginning to realize their constituents aren’t going to keep buying what they’re selling. In the wake of Trump’s election, people are becoming more educated on issues and realizing that they’re better off supporting policies that help them now , rather than supporting crystal-ball policies in which they envision themselves as rich and thankful for low tax rates. To stop Trump and Ryan from passing their tax reforms, the pressure voters have put on their elected officials needs to increase, and they need some gentle reminders that they won’t have a job in a few years if they vote at the expense of the working and middle classes. The increase in voter awareness regarding schemes to benefit the upper class and corporations is proving to be a brick wall that Trump and Ryan can’t avoid. If we want to invest in the common good, our best strategy is to keep building this wall and letting plans crash into it at top speed. Our wall killed the AHCA, and it’s going to kill Trump’s tax plan.